2009 US Winners
Wild and Water Swimming
Nominated By: Youth Venture/Ashoka
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $40,000 in Donations
Laura White is a 19-year-old from Alpharetta, GA. Unable to help a friend who was homeless throughout middle and high school, Laura was inspired to help others in need. Laura decided to volunteer for Wilderness Works, an organization that serves Atlanta’s inner city youth. While on a camping trip with the group, Laura was asked to serve as a lifeguard for the Wilderness Works participants at a nearby lake. Laura was shocked when she had to rescue five kids in the water who did not know how to swim. Laura realized that she could help others by teaching low-income youth to swim; she had found her calling. Approximately three years later in September 2006, Laura founded Wild and Water Swimming, a nonprofit that provides free swimming and water safety lessons for low-income children. She negotiated a free or a reduced rate to utilize swimming pools of different swimming organizations or teams. She also partnered with these organizations to recruit volunteer swim instructors to train participants for free. Wild and Water Swimming provides all swimming lessons free of charge. In addition, Wild and Water Swimming provides all swim lesson graduates with free Water Safety Instructor certification and Life Guard Training classes, so that the participants can secure jobs as swim instructors and life guards if they so choose. Since its inception, Wild and Water Swimming has taught over 150 kids to swim and has collected over $40,000 in grants and in-kind donations. Now a freshman at Tulane University, Laura has partnered with various organizations to bring Wild and Water Swimming to New Orleans, LA, Charlotte, NC, Pensacola, FL, and Mobile, AL.
El Paso, Texas
Nominated By: Fye Bye Magazine
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $25,000
Alex Pastor, an 18-year-old, is the founder of Don Camaron, a seafood restaurant in El Paso, Texas. From a young age, Alex has always searched for ideas to become the next young millionaire. In 2006, at the age of 16, Alex was inspired by a seafood restaurant that he saw while visiting Mexico. He decided that he would try to apply this business concept to his hometown and make it a success. Alex’s uncle provided all of the seafood to get his business started; he used his own savings and a loan from his father to buy an outdoor, reconditioned kiosk with a patio on one of the main streets in El Paso. Alex’s father and grandmother helped him by teaching him how to cook seafood and helping him develop the restaurant’s menu. When the restaurant first opened, Alex faced problems with missing rent and utility payment deadlines, and even suffered a break-in at his restaurant. However, Alex remains optimistic and continues to work hard. While Alex is in school, his father and one additional employee help in the restaurant. Alex is very proud to be serving an exotic variety of fresh and affordable seafood dishes to his community. Now a freshman at the University of Texas, El Paso, Alex is a business management major and hopes to expand his restaurant in the future.
Nominated By: NFTE Baltimore
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: None
Anne Montague is a 17-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland, who owns Inamoratos Dance, a not-for-profit dance school for urban youth. Anne lives in an area that is riddled with crime; a lack of positive leadership and of local afterschool programs, have led many of her peers down a very bad path. From a very young age, dancing has been Anne’s solace from her surroundings. In 2006, Anne decided to start teaching dance classes. She took her love for dance and created a company that would introduce the art to local youth and give them a creative alternative to the violent streets of Baltimore. Anne rents dance studio space at her local middle school. She cites her friends for helping her to get the word out about her business and recruiting new members to her dance troupe. Anne says that her dance students have become very close-knit and feel like a family. Currently a senior in high school, Anne plans to go to college and hopes to study Business Administration.
Nominated By: NFTE Florida
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $6,334
Jessica Cervantes is an 18-year-old who founded Popsy Cakes in Miami, Florida. Jessica always loved baking, especially with her grandmother. So, in 2007, when Jessica’s business teacher instructed her to develop a business idea of her own, Jessica knew what she wanted to do. She remembered whenever her cousins ate cupcakes at their birthday parties, they always made a big mess; Jessica spent a great deal of time cleaning up after her cousins’ cupcake messes. To remedy this issue, Jessica decided to invent a non-messy cupcake. Popsy Cakes, a popsicle-like creation with a cookie stick and cake top, are entirely edible and completely “un-messy”. She currently caters many children’s parties in her neighborhood. Popsy Cakes has one employee who helps with delivering Popsy Cakes to clients. In addition to her talent and drive, Jessica is socially and environmentally conscious. Each Popsy Cake is packaged in a recyclable plastic. Jessica also donates 5% of Popsy Cakes’ annual profit to the Breast Cancer Foundation and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Today, Jessica is in the process of obtaining a patent and trademark protection for her product to license it to various specialty bakeries. She is currently a senior in high school.
Jayce’s Mobile Wash
Nominated By: Fye Bye
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $10,896
When Jaycen Smith was 16, he was working at a grocery store for just above minimum wage. Over time, however, Jaycen realized that he did not like working for someone else. He wanted to run his own business and earn money based on his own performance. So, Jaycen began searching for ways to become self-employed. After deliberating over many ideas, Jaycen finally settled on a mobile car wash business. In 2004, at the age of 16, Jaycen founded Jayce’s Mobile Wash of Lubbock, Texas. With a loan from his father, Jaycen bought a trailer with a generator, a pressure washer, and a water tank. Jaycen’s company travels throughout Lubbock to wash cars, boats, and even small planes. Jaycen says that his mother was not initially thrilled at the idea of him borrowing so much money to start a company at such a young age, but he says that her hesitation gave him additional drive to succeed. He paid his loan off completely within the first 3 months of starting his company. Now, at the age of 20, Jaycen continues to run his business while in his third year at Texas Tech University where he is majoring in Finance.
Nominated By: Diamonds in the Ruff Children’s Society
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $1,200
Ariell Buckingham is a 17-year-old who is the founder and CEO of Smile Entertainment, a party-planning company that specializes in children’s birthday parties in Chicago, Illinois. In high school, Arielle was placed into an Advanced Small Business class at her high school. In this class, Ariell was presented with an assignment to create a business by uncovering a problem and finding a solution. Ariell remembered that when she was younger, she was bored and frustrated with the same ordinary birthday parties she had attended. As the eldest of four, Arielle often helped to plan her siblings’ birthday parties. She knew she could use her experience with these parties and her creative ideas to open a party planning business. Founded in 2007, Smile Entertainment’s party packages included invitations, setup, toys and prizes, an activity, cakes and food, cleanup, and more. Ariell hires three hourly employees to help at each party. In addition to leading her company, Ariell is also a leader in her community. Smile Entertainment volunteers at local Senior Centers by offering free activities such as dancing, singing, and playing games with the seniors. In addition, because the high school dropout rate in Ariell’s neighborhood is high, Ariell has established a group tutoring program to help the youth in her community. Ariell is currently a senior in high school and attend the University of Illinois next year.
Shaker Heights, Ohio
Nominated By: E-City
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $328
Ariana Smith-Bland, a 17-year-old of Shaker Heights, Ohio, is the CEO of Monai Enterprise, a company established in 2003 that produces handmade tissue holders. The fabric tissue holders with inner lining are all sewn by Ariana. She decided to start her own business because her ultimate goal in life is to own a law firm; Ariana knew that starting her own business now would give her the necessary insights of a successful entrepreneur and the skills she’ll need to be a better CEO in the future. In addition to selling her tissue holders on her own, Ariana sells her tissue holders at a local boutique, and at an art gallery in downtown Cleveland. To complete her orders, Ariana pays her grandmother to assemble holders while she is attending school. Ariana donates a portion of her profit to assist the victims of hurricane Katrina and AIDS organizations in Africa. At the end of 2007, Ariana’s company donated over 200 dollars to each charity. Currently Ariana is a senior in high school and is applying to college.
Forever Life Music & Video
Nominated By: ACE Technical Charter High School
Throughout his childhood, Rodney Walker from Chicago, Illinois, was placed in over 15 different foster homes and attended over 10 different elementary schools. Growing up, Rodney did not have family to rely on, to nurture him, or to give him advice. This experience has taught him to be independent and self-reliant. In his senior year of high school, Rodney took a business class and was inspired to start his own company. He had studied video production as a hobby so when he learned how to become an entrepreneur, he realized that he could use his talent to form a company. In January of 2007, at the age of 17, Rodney founded Forever Life Music & Video Production, a video production company that videotapes special occasions and events. Rodney produces original background songs for each video. Rodney, now 19, is currently a freshman at Morehouse College. He continues to run his business, with Morehouse as one of his biggest clients. Forever Life Music & Video has 6 employees who are all students at Morehouse.
New York, New York
Nominated By: NFTE New York
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $4,987
Gary Jiang, a 17-year-old, of New York, New York is the CEO of MuffinMilk, a clothing apparel line founded in 2008 which targets the urban, hip-hop, and skater youth. MuffinMilk creates designs and uses a heat-press to put its designs on t-shirts and sweatshirts. Gary cites his family, who came from China in the 1980s, for his entrepreneurial spirit. Gary recognized early on that a difficult financial position and lack of education plagued his family. He knew that he would have to work hard to succeed and saw entrepreneurship as a way to accomplish his goals. Gary decided to take his love of design and create a company that he could lead to success. In addition to leading in his company, Gary, a junior, is a leader at Brooklyn Technical High School. Currently, Gary is the Creative and Marketing Director for the Young Entrepreneur Association (YEA). YEA works with MuffinMilk to create products and events for his school, such as Career Day and YEA Against Autism.
Your Way IT Solutions
Nominated By: NFTE Washington D.C.
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $11,080
Chante Goodwin is a 20-year-old from Suitland, Maryland who founded Your Way IT Solutions, a technical consulting and support company, in 2005. Your Way IT Solutions offers a variety of services to the Washington D.C./Metro area such as virus removal, operating system installations, hardware/software installations, wireless network configurations, and custom-built computers. In her junior year of high school, Chante met with a guidance counselor who asked her about her future profession. Puzzled by this question, Chante began to think about the things she loved to do. Chante had taken computer and networking classes at school and enjoyed both classes immensely. She also enjoyed repairing her family and friends’ computers. She decided to turn her love for technology into a business. She enrolled in an entrepreneurial course to learn how to take her passion for technology and turn it into a successful business. Chante employs two technicians and is currently applying for a Minority Business Certification. Now at George Washington University, Chante is majoring in business administration with a concentration in management information systems.
North Miami Beach, Florida
Nominated By: NFTE Florida
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $950
At 9 years of age, Steve Della Valentina from North Miami Beach, Florida, found a program online that gave users the ability to customize a simple web page. Steve’s interest was immediately sparked. He researched how to design and produce web pages and developed his own MySpace page filled with his unique designs. His friends took notice and asked him to design their sites as well. Steve had never imagined making a career or business out of his passion. As more friends asked Steve to design their website, he realized he could charge for his designs and make a profit. In 2008, at the age of 16, Steve founded ValleDevetS, a graphic and web design company. The company offers complete customization without the use of templates. Steve designs web and MySpace pages, flyers, posters, and more. Now 17, Steve is a senior in high school and has been accepted to the University of Central Florida.
Printed Publications United
Nominated By: NFTE Florida
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $3,150
Crystal Blair is 17 years of age, from Miami, Florida. She is the CEO of Printed Publications United, a company that designs promotional materials such as business cards, flyers, magnets, and posters. Crystal was inspired to pursue entrepreneurship by her mother. Crystal watched her mother work long hours for low wages to support three children on her own. Motivated by her mother’s financial struggles, Crystal decided to take an entrepreneurship class in high school. From this class, Crystal realized she could take her skills in graphic design and start a successful company. In 2007, at the age of 16, Crystal founded Printed Publications United. Crystal’s company employs one assistant for extra help. Crystal is currently a senior in high school and applying to college to pursue her undergraduate studies.
Nominated By: Diamonds in the Ruff Children’s Society
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $700
In 2007, 16-year-old Mia Bridges, from Chicago, Illinois needed to take control of her life. Her relationship with her mother was strained and abusive. Mia felt lost, hopeless, and trapped. After attempting suicide, Mia realized that she needed to change her life. In her junior year, she was assigned to take a business class in high school and discovered that by owning her own business she could have sole control over her product, company, and future. Mia remembered that many people in her community, including her brother, have issues with dry skin and eczema. So, Mia decided to create her own brand of environmentally friendly, organic lotion, called N.V. Lotion. She taught herself how to make lotion from her online research. Thereafter, she began to grow her own aloe vera at home to include in the ingredients. Mia even produces the lotion bottles by hand and makes each unique and environmentally friendly. Over the years, Mia has tweaked her formula to perfection. She is the only person who knows this formula. Currently, she employs several of her peers to sell her product. She also has an agreement with her local WalMart to sell her lotions outside their stores and retain 100% of profits. In the future, Mia hopes to secure a patent for her product and obtain an organic certification for her lotion. Mia, now 17, is a senior in high school. She has been accepted to Quincy University on an academic scholarship. She is plans to obtain her undergraduate degree in criminal justice and minor in business.
Brooklyn, New York
Nominated By: Growing Up CEO
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $150
Kyle Wong, an 18-year-old from Brooklyn, NY is the founder of myCollegeSTAT.com, an innovative website designed to aid the college admissions and research process. After Kyle was accepted to attend Stanford in 2008, many of his friends were curious about his admissions process. Unable to come up with a solid answer, Kyle reviewed his applications and realized that today’s college acceptance is no longer solely based on averages, tests, or numbers. Schools are reviewing applicants’ overall achievements—interest, talent, sports, leadership skill as well as scholastic achievement. Admissions books or websites do not include statics that give a full picture of the applicants overall achievement. Kyle decided to create a website that displays applicant’s profiles - what colleges an applicant was accepted to and rejected from, the applicants’ academic or extracurricular achievements, leadership experience, and much more. myCollegeSTAT depends largely on college students who are willing to share the details of their college resume. The students can anonymously contribute to the website and users who register for an account on myCollegeSTAT can access the information on this website for free. Kyle’s ultimate goal is to humanize the college admissions process and break away from the average statistics. In addition, Kyle hopes that his site will help bridge the gap between rich and poor students. He cites that high schools in poorer neighborhoods often do not have the resources and experience that students need to make informed college decisions. Kyle currently works with six business partners, ages 18-19, and the company has one older employee in Bangladesh who works on the website. In May 2008, myCollegeSTAT launched its first beta site and Kyle anticipates the second beta release in February 2009. Included in the beta release are forums, enhanced college search, graphical representation of data, and essay review services. Kyle is currently a freshman at Stanford.
Nominated By: Fye Bye
2008 Fiscal Year Revenues: $25,000
Ryan Clark is 20 years old from Champaign, IL. In 2006, Ryan founded 247Mixtapes.com, a subscription-based website that enables users to access mixed tapes and custom music compilations. These compilations are released to promote artists before their albums are distributed to a wider audience. There is no cost to stream the mix tapes but users must pay $10 per month to download songs. Currently, 24/7Mixtapes.com has 5,000 users and 200-300 paying members. When Ryan was younger, he did not receive an allowance. He had to take on odd jobs if he wanted money. As a result, Ryan developed a strong entrepreneurial work ethic beginning from his earliest endeavors raking leaves, shoveling snow, growing and selling pumpkins, and giving tennis lessons. As he grew older, Ryan became interested in technology. As a result, he taught himself various scripting languages such as PHP and ASP. Frustrated with the high price and limited access of mixed tapes, Ryan decided to use his talents to create 24/7Mixtapes.com. Since its inception, 24/7Mixtapes.com has strived to offer superior support and service to its members at an affordable rate. 24/7Mixtapes.com also participates in the local community. Currently, 247Mixtapes is focused on sponsoring upcoming shows such as the Urbana-Champaign Mentor Teacher Brother Youth Explosion, an event which showcases the talent of local youth in the area. Today, Ryan works with several freelancers who help to build and update his website. He attends the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign where he is an Accounting major.